Inside the Royal College of Art: how second year fashion students go about their creative practice
The Royal College of Art is renowned as one of the world’s leading school for art and design. Its continuing ability to produce individuals who dominate the fashion industry, contributed to a certain amount of anticipation over meeting some of the current second year fashion students. Entering the dynamic and newly renovated studio spaces, we were welcomed into the communal hub of the RCA, where creativity flourishes in a wealth of resources, support and innovation.
We circulated some of the students’ spaces and spoke (to those who had time!) about their work and how they best approach their day.
Marco’s self portrait consists of him cross-armed, with a collaged fusilli Mohican. This sits next to his equally glorious fusilli shoe- a surreal exploration of his Italian identity. His energetic demeanour is clear in his approach:
“Normally I come in quite early in the morning, because the workshops start opening at 10.30, so we start activating the more experimental side of the work. For instance we have the resin room, the wood workshop and the metal workshop. This morning I had this material PVC and I just stitched it with a heat technique and then I put water inside. The idea is developed in the morning and then I work on a pattern over lunch. My personal way to organise the day is to use the resources (whatever workshop) as I like to be everywhere. I use the dead moment between afternoon and morning to do practical things, but I also like to stay late in the night as it’s easier to concentrate. I work in the café, and so enjoy a social life within the college. I find it really interesting and lovely to spend my time here!”
Since the start of term, Marco goes to Saint Paul’s every Sunday to see the organ recitals. He tells me that it is a beautiful moment with sublime music.
Sat next to Marco, is Helen and her many monster-masks and faces: created from collages of destroyed trainers and conjoined laces. She likes to work with identities and plays with brand-hierarchies. She is keen to repurpose non-reusable trainers which dominate the shoe industry and tells of her practice:
“My process is a bit destructive, I like to use a lot of humour in my work and not take myself too seriously. With Menswear you need that! Its nice to be playful. Thinking about the way I work with my schedule- last year I was really good at coming in early and now this year I’m not! I usually get in at about 11 and work until midnight and then go home and carry on working until 2, so my schedule is long but the wrong way around. It’s nocturnal, but it works for me and it’s nice in the evening as it’s a lot quieter here. Me and Marco are often here quite late, with our headphones in.”
Helen reveals that she has playlists for everything: music is key and she starts the day with a “walking” playlist, featuring upbeat, high energy tunes. Then in the day she listens to her “workin’ hard, hardly workin” playlist, which has a mixture of electronic, euphoric, alternative and folk. The song that motivates and focuses her the most is Marc E. Bassy, “Only the Poets”, and she usually starts the day with this way.
Supriya’s space is a vision of pink and gold. She explores femininity and the body and plays with ideas of ‘rough luxury’. Her materials vary from golden gaffa tape (which I enviously eye) and painted foam hair curlers. When asked about her routine, she states:
“I tend to come in around 10, it depends what’s on that day. Generally, we have tutorials with Tristan on Mondays, and fittings on Thursdays. How we interpret our time is dependent around that. Once I’m in college I have a coffee, otherwise I can’t function! I have to sit with my headphones on and write a list for the day; they can start off small and end up huge. Currently I’m making big pieces out of wood, so I’m laser-cutting things and organise when I can get them coated, there’s a lot of admin. I come in and write my list and try to work my way through it. It could be draping for a look or working on some fabric samples or finishing. Pattern making or sketching for a couple of hours: it’s all dependent on what deadlines you’re working to that week. It’s amazing how much you can get done. It’s good for me to work on different things at once and in bursts, otherwise my concentration just goes!”
Supriya likes to sync her workflow to music, varying from ambient techno to rap: otherwise she’ll be tuning into Radio 4 or The Economist. In her down-time she loves to watch movies on Mubi with a glass of wine, curled on the sofa with her boyfriend or go for drinks with friends.
Amanda admires the work of Richard Deacon and is interested in creating tensions within the shapes of the female form. She enjoys the vast resources available at the RCA and uses these to create her own research and stimulus. She reflects:
“I normally get here around 10, if there’s a presentation day, I will get here earlier. I work from home one day a week as it’s sometimes good to get some distance from uni. Most of the work is practical, but everything can be done here. I love draping, I don’t draw so much. I work on the stand or do samples, and create a lot of 3D work. We have the fitting area which we use for photography. We have the white wall and spaces we can book if we want to do a video. Cause we are such a small class with just 13 of us, we have a lot of chatty times. We sometimes have dance sessions — it’s a great dynamic and you want to be in the studio as you get work done, but you get input from other people too.”
Outside of school, Amanda instructs a cardio class 1-2 times a week — one of the ways in which she releases stress and tension. In between studio-time, she likes to go for drinks with classmates and swears by eating candy in the studio!
Stefanie has a mathematical approach to fashion, stemming from her experience of the Swiss education system, which focussed on the logical and scientific.
“I come in around 9 and then of course I need a coffee. Then I chat with everyone, while they arrive. I tend to listen to really loud music to get into my zone, it’s like a meditation. I’m really practical, I create these lines and it’s a repetitive process. I have a slight obsession with lines! I really have this zone, where I don’t want people talk to me, but then I need breaks and to have little chats. And as Amanda said, a little dance is always really important. I’m normally here 7 days a week from early till late. You want to be here in the creative space! It’s nice to go home and not think about fashion, to have a clean space and to compartmentalise.”
Stefanie psychs herself up to work by listening to music she made in a collaboration with students at the Royal Academy of Music, inspired by her work and research. When she needs to destress, she likes to go for a walk in Hyde Park, and back home she meditates to free her mind and catch a minute to herself.
Sophie is fascinated with shadows, light and reflection, and creates pieces which appear differently in different lights. As a young girl she often walked past the RCA and was always intrigued into what the art school was about. Now a student, she tells me:
“I’m not that productive in the morning, there’s so many practical things like emails, so I tend to stay quite late, 10 or 12. I really enjoy the evening hours here, because it’s quiet and I’m much more focussed. I bring most of my stuff home, as the hours from 12-2am are very productive. I really enjoy being in this class as we are such a strong team and we help each other; that means a lot!”
Sophie cycles to and from university everyday: she finds it to be a ritual which helps her process her days.
Lastly, Lauren from womenswear shows me her work which is embedded in her drawing practice. A 30 second drawing of her body has led to a lengthily project, where she explores ideas of second skin and manifesting drawing habits into fashion.
“As a student it is a privilege to have your own space, especially as my home is tiny! So I get in around 10 and leave, depending on what I do and how I feel, around 7 or 10. It’s a full day in the studio, really. I think because of the environment that we’re in, working is great, but sometimes you need to let steam off by talking to your peers or just chilling out and having a cigarette. But yeah, that’s my daily routine. I just keep going, I’m one of those people who has to do write to do-lists, that’s the key! I have my huge stack of post-its that I keep adding to, it’s really mounting up now!”
Outside of school, Lauren is reading Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. And when she gets a moment in the morning, she likes to begin the day with a vinyasa flow sun salutation, and light stretches: keeping her flexibility helps her move around the studio in the day. Lauren likes to spend her free time dining out with friends, watching movies or writing letters to her fiance in South Korea.